ᑖᓐ ᑳ ᐄᔑ ᒥᔅᑯᐧᐋᐦᑖᑲᓅᐦᒡ ᓀᒥᔅᑳᐤ

ALNA Report - Nemaska

Nemaska is a small, vibrant Cree community located on the shores of Champion Lake. Children and youth make up the majority of Nemaska’s population, with nearly two-thirds (61%) of community members under the age of 35.

In total, 43% 15-45-year olds in Nemaska took the Adult Learning Needs Assessment survey. We are grateful for their participation and hope the results can help us to direct our local efforts where they matter most.

Sabtuan Adult Education Services looks forward to working together to build a plan that reflects the needs and ambitions of Nemaska community members.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment surveyed 208 Nemaska Eenouch.

Most of those surveyed (158 participants) were aged 15-45.

9 community members and 3 employers also participated in qualitative interviews.

This sample size provides us with a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of 6%, making the ALNA a very reliable source of data on Nemaska community members. 

Key Takeaways

Nemaska Eenouch care about education

Almost all community members who took our surveys (99%) agreed with the statement “Education is important.” Nemaska also had the highest rate of parental support for education of all the communities, with 98% of people saying their parents encouraged their studies.

Nemaska adults want to learn more about Cree culture, language, and history

The top three programs of interest to community members were (1) Cree language, (2) traditional knowledge & skills, and (3) Cree culture and history. SAES can respond to this demand not only by offering these programs. but by taking steps to make all programs more culturally relevant.

Most community members are open to online learning

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Nemaska adults say they would be open to taking a course via technology. In fact, most adults said they would prefer to learn partially online with in-person support, rather than learning exclusively in-person. This finding shows us the importance of continuing to invest in our online teaching and learning capacity.

Leaving the community for a program may be an option for some

In Nemaska, 81% of people were willing to leave the community temporarily for school. This openness is higher than most other communities. Those who were less interested in leaving home for school often had young children or were concerned about access to housing when they return.

Community interests and employer needs overlap

The ALNA found a variety of programs that would meet employer needs and interest prospective students. These included starting a business, bookkeeping, mechanics, and electrical technician. Post-secondary programs were also identified in areas such as nursing, business management, teaching and environmental engineering. Soft skill training in areas like time management and communication were also in high demand. These results will be considered when selecting programs for Nemaska.

Community Education Profile

In Nemaska, the majority of adults have at least one type of diploma. Many adults in the community are also interested in pursuing further education: 83% of community members are interested in going back to school and 98% say they are encouraged by their parents to continue with schooling.

Despite these encouraging signs, 54% of adults withdrew from school at least once during their education. Those who experienced one or more interruptions in their educational journey were less likely to have completed a diploma. Disinterest, problems at school, and family responsibilities were the most common reasons people withdrew from school in Nemaska.

Educational pursuits are highly linked to job opportunities in the community. Nemaska Eenouch had the lowest job satisfaction rate of all communities, with only 27% of people saying they were satisfied with their current jobs. Many people were motivated to return to school for a better job, with 42% of people saying they would go back to school if it was required to get a promotion. In addition to training for a better job, the Starting a Business program was very popular among survey respondents. There are many ways Sabtuan Adult Education Services can respond to this demand, especially since the community is quite open to online learning and out-of-community programs.


The community education profile shows us where we are. Now, it’s time to find out where we can go from here.

Through our interviews and follow-up questions, we were able to identify success factors which impact current and prospective students in Nemaska. Understanding these factors will help us to set up services and supports that help adults achieve their educational goals. 

We also found out community members’ program interests, and discovered how these interests aligned with community/employer needs (by reviewing CENA results from Apatisiiwin Skills Development and interviewing employers). This will help us select and offer programs that will support the community’s future.

It is important to note that any strategy we build must have a strong cultural foundation and a plan for continuous community collaboration.

These all must be considered as we build a local adult education strategy for Nemaska.

Student Success Factors

In this section, you’ll read about the different success factors we’ve identified in Nemaska. We’ll also share some of the ways we plan to respond to these success factors in our Local Adult Education and Training Strategy. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to share your own ideas and identify what improvements are most important to you.

Teaching & School Environment

Ninety-nine percent (99%) of Nemaska community members agreed with the statement that “Education is important.” Despite this fact, 54% of respondents said they withdrew from school at least once, most often in Secondary III or IV. Of these, 43% say that boredom and disinterest were among their main reasons for withdrawing.

This data shows the importance of creating an engaging, inspiring environment for adult students. There are a few ways we can work to achieve this:

Quality teaching. Adult education students reported that their teachers were knowledgeable (94%), easy to communicate with (87%) and understanding of the Cree culture (74%). This plays an important role in their success.

Vocational teachers in the course knew how to show us, to understand things. They didn’t allow us to not understand things, they had to make us understand everything.

The transition to Adult Ed. was easy, they told me everything like what to expect, what I would need… They were really on it. They helped me get on it like if I missed a day that I didn’t do it. They’ll call me and say 'Can you come in? We need to finish this'.

Flexible schedules. Several interviewees in Nemaska reported working while going to school. Others may be caring for children at home or want time to visit out-of-community loved ones. For this reason, schedule preferences can vary a great deal in the community.

Many community members expressed openness to online learning options, which may be a way to support this need. Our new student financial assistance program may also make it less necessary for individuals to work and go to school at the same time.

Support services. In our interviews, we asked community members what supports may have helped them remain in school. Their recommendations included more tutoring, extracurriculars, and a breakfast club.

There should be a mentor or a guide in school. Someone to guide you, inspire you more. — Community member going back to SAES

Tutoring. Also, sports teams, tournaments. Like a soccer team. You’d have to be in school if you wanted to join the team. — Community member without a diploma

The Cree School Board youth sector is actively working to increase many of these supports (for example, through Elephant Thoughts). If these efforts succeeding in increasing the Secondary V graduation rate in Nemaska, this may increase demand for vocational training and post-secondary programming in the adult sector.

Actions Taken

  • Partial online learning implemented, including student laptops.

  • Development of Cree-centric Teaching and Learning Framework.

  • Expanded adult education team to include Coordinator of Student Success.

Next Steps

  • Use new Cree-centric Teaching and Learning Framework to support culturally relevant practices in the classroom.

  • Increase services (counselling, special needs support, etc.) to support the needs of all students.

Your Response

It’s your turn! What are other ways we can improve the learning experience for adult education students in Nemaska?

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Personal Motivation

There are many outside influences, such as parents, teachers, and school environment, that can impact student success. However, personal motivation and positive momentum are also very important.

In Nemaska, the main reason for going back to school was to obtain a diploma. For the majority of respondents, this meant better employment (57%), a sense of pride and accomplishment (30%), as well as an opportunity to go to college/university (26%). It also meant the possibility of getting a better job, which was the second reason for going back to school.

I decided to wake up to do something, and I went looking for a job. I found something… and after, I never gave up. And skills, getting good at what I’m doing, still needed a little bit of training for the worksite. So, this is why I am at Sabtuan Adult Education. I’m taking that course to get higher, up the ladder, step by step, you know?

I wanted to get my diploma. So I kept going and going. It motivated me. I knew I needed it for my future.

Clearly, personal goals and dreams can motivate students. On the other hand, factors like substance abuse, peer pressure, and lack of direction can limit motivation. Of those who withdrew from school in Nemaska, 39% said drugs/alcohol played a role in their decision and 43% said boredom and disinterest played a role:

My friends weren’t in school. My classmates were young, 2-3 years younger than me. They were all friends in my class. I wanted to be like my friend. There was always drinking at home too.

I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I had too many problems in life outside of school. I had a hard time coping with other students who were bullying me. And my friends too, they wanted to quit school so they could party and they asked me to join them, I said yes.

Closeness to Cree culture is another factor that can make a difference in the educational journey:

When I’m walking around in Montreal, that’s what makes me stand tall, my Cree culture. It impacts my motivation. We should try our best to keep our culture alive.

In Sabtuan, Cree culture is represented, since they provide goose break and moose break. It helps keep the culture alive. It doesn’t really impact my motivation, though. As long as our culture is respected in the programs.

Overall, it is important that Sabtuan Adult Education Services help students to set goals and build habits that support success. Strengthening Cree identity will also help us to build student self-esteem so they are able to achieve their goals.

Actions Taken

  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for adult students.

  • Motivation webinar offered through Wellness Services.

  • Adult Learner Day/Creative showcase organized to celebrate students.

Next Steps

  • Improve use and follow-up of Learning Plans.

  • Increase linkages with health board to support students with challenges.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How can you encourage others to follow their dreams and goals?

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Family Impact

Family members have a significant impact on Nemaska adults going back to school. Students told us that that family members provided important support throughout their educational journey:

My parents showed a lot of support. The people that encouraged me and helped me made it easy. My grandma too – she’s also a bigtime supporter.

My mom and my grandmother. They wouldn’t let me miss a day of school, in the morning my mother would wake me up. My grandmother - I lived with her when I was younger, in grade school. She didn’t want me to quit.

My mom. She still tells me words like ‘keep going to school’ and ‘happy you made a change’.

My father. He tells me to get up. He pushed me. Encouraged me not to quit, keep going.

Students were particularly motivated by their parents’ own educational accomplishments:

My mother has a bachelor’s degree. It took her 10 years. When I want to quit when I’m doing a course, when she notices I don’t want to go to school, that’s what she says ‘look at me, it took 10 years. You’ve only been in school for 1 year’ [chuckles].

Seeing my parents who were in school too, when I was younger, that motivated me to pursue further my education… After I graduated, I wanted to find a trade I liked doing and stick to it. My parents supported me a lot, with this decision of going back to school. They supported me financially, bought me gear I would need for the program. They encouraged me to come and do the program.

In Nemaska, education is highly promoted by parents than elsewhere. Contrary to what was seen in the majority of communities, the education level, the age group, or gender did not seem to show any difference in parental behaviour:

Another important factor is the impact of adult students’ own children. Setting an example for children may motivate some students; however, the financial and time constraints of parenthood can also make going back to school difficult. We must be aware of these realities and prepared to support parents in any way possible.

Actions Taken

  • Wellness Services Counsellor and teachers encourage students to reach out to support systems when needed.

Next Steps

  • Provide mentors/support for students without close family ties.

  • Provide information sessions and community events that allow family members to learn about adult education.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How can you help students in your family and community feel supported while in school?

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Alignment with the Job Market

The ALNA data shows that jobs and finances are a significant motivation when it comes to going to school. Most common reason people left school was “I needed a job to support myself/my family financially,” with over half of people citing this as one of their main reasons for withdrawing. In addition, 34% of people who would not consider going back say finances are their main reason.

I went for one semester into a program in Chibougamau. I stopped to work. I had a kid I had to support.

I was discouraged by some of my classes and then I was frustrated. I had a job and I decided to go work instead of going to school. That’s when I dropped out.

While finances may be a reason people initially leave school, longer-term career goals are is also a reason people return. One-third of adults who want to go back to school say their motivation is to get a better job. In Nemaska, many opportunities require a diploma, and individuals with a Secondary School Diploma are 2x more likely to be satisfied with their job (58% vs 27%).

I wanted to find a trade I liked doing and stick to it. So, that way I could have a full-time job and finally start going with it.

Based on this data, it is clear that people will be more likely to go to school if they know it will lead to a better job. Employers play an important role in this success factor. By valuing education in the hiring process and providing protected educational leave, they can make it easier for people to choose to go back to school. However, in interviews, employers indicated that the realities of the workplace can make this difficult, especially in jobs where experience is highly valued.

We need more employees. High school graduates. We need people with specific qualifications and degrees. We also need people with experience. - Employer

If someone wants to go back to school and we give a leave of absence, your job is secure - come back and get back to work. - Employer

Our biggest need right now is to get more Cree managers...there’s certain experience that’s required of the position and it’s always Non-Natives who have the experience in this sector. Our intention is to identify somebody local, and train on the job. - Employer

I finished a program before and I was having a hard time looking for work. There should be someone at Sabtuan to see what the issue is. - SAES graduate

To respond to this success factor, collaboration between Sabtuan Adult Education Services, Apatitisiiwin Skills Development, and local employers is key. In addition, we must consider the individual financial needs of our students and their long-term career goals in order to motivate them to complete their programs.

Actions Taken

  • Launched financial assistance program in 2020-21 school year.

  • Formalized partnership with Apatisiiwin Skills Development.

Next Steps

  • Increase employer partnerships to ensure workers are able to return to school without giving up their jobs.

  • Consider offering financial management workshops.

  • Grow relationship with Apatisiiwin Skills Development to support transition to the workplace.

Your Response

It’s your turn! What else could help eliminate financial barriers to education in Nemaska?

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Program Recommendations

Many potential adult education students in Nemaska are interested in deepening their cultural knowledge and skills., with the majority showing interest in culturally relevant programs. This interest aligns with our internal priorities at Sabtuan Adult Education Services, as we are working to both offer more culture/language programs and to increase the cultural relevance of all programs and services.

Entrepreneurship is also a key interest for adults in Nemaska; “Starting a Business” was the fourth most in-demand program according to our surveys. Programs that led to careers in construction and machinery were also popular, with top choices including Heavy Equipment Operator, Carpenter, and Heavy Machinery Mechanic. In general, program interest aligned closely with employer needs in the community, giving us a clear picture of the overall priority areas in terms of capacity building.

By combining community member data with employer feedback from Apatisiiwin Skills Developments’ CENA study, we were able to identify the highest-demand programs in Nemaska at present. This list of programs is by no means comprehensive, nor is it an official list of programs we are committed to offering. Other considerations, like feasibility of offering the program locally and the cultural component, will also be considered.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment considered data from Apatisiiwin Skills Development (ASD)’s Community Employment Needs Assessment (CENA) in its program analysis. We also interviewed employers to follow up on the data. If you would like further information on the employment outlook in Nemaska, please contact ASD.

Additional Workshops/non-credited training

Employers and community members also mentioned several other skills which adult education could impart. These may or may not be part of a formal diploma program:

  • Communication and literacy

  • Time management/punctuality

  • French language

  • Computer skills

Employers noted that, in addition to local training opportunities, finding the time to train employees is another significant challenge.

I think it would be helpful to provide training in the community. Like there are some positions that require French. A lot of them. That’s where I got stuck when I applied for a job in regional, at the higher level. It was because of lack of French. So, language classes, or time management.

Program Delivery

The location of an educational program was very important in Nemaska. Nineteen percent (19%) of people would not attend a program outside of the community. The average across Eeyou Istchee is 23% meaning Nemaska Eeyouch are slightly more open to studying outside of the community; however, 42% say they would only attend if they could visit home regularly. Therefore, if it is not feasible to offer a program in Nemaska, Sabtuan Adult Education Services might consider promoting programs in nearby communities like Waskaganish to support capacity building in the community.

Another way to provide education is through technology. If a program of interest was not offered in their community, 73% of respondents would be open to taking a course either fully or partially online. Most people preferred a combination of online learning and in-person learning. As Sabtuan Adult Education Services has significantly increased its digital capacity over the past year, these are options we could explore to serve more students.

More information on program delivery can be found in the Community Education Profile.

Note: ALNA data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. Online learning readiness may have been impacted by recent events.

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